“Spring into Life”

Of course, April showers bring May flowers. They bring life.  Of course, when there is a drought, the showers are less plenteous. There results a desert. And, of course, this is a parable for our spiritual lives. …

As you are fully aware, the Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but sadly many stop with Him as the Way and the Truth; then they try to live the Christian Life in their own strength: They gut it out becoming legalists.

Or they try to pretend they are living the life Jesus wants: They fake it out, becoming hypocrites. But if you have integrity, you will neither gut it out because deep down you know you cannot do it; and you will not fake it out because you know you need to be true to yourself as well as the Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth. So, there you dangle being caught between the “is” and the “ought”: Between what is and what ought to be, thus you become a Dangler!

But my prayer for you and for me is that instead of being a Hypocrite, Legalist or Dangler, we spring into Life, the Life the Lord Jesus Christ is in us. Again, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As we spring into Life, we become Lifers, those who yield to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Power to live the Life.

Join me in living this Resurrected Life: “Lord Jesus Christ, be in me what You need me to be today. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings. In Your Name, Amen.”

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“The Empty Tomb Response”

When emotions run high and logic is empty, let the empty tomb respond. When a relationship slips & falls and leaves you empty, let the empty tomb respond. When the bills mount up and the bank account runs empty, let the empty tomb respond.

The empty tomb is after death. The empty tomb shouts of After-Life. The empty tomb is full of hope and reassurance: Jesus has conquered death—and sin, and has given us Full Life, Abundant Life.

The empty tomb response to empty logic may be silence, or a well-crafted answer prompted by the After-Life in this life. The empty tomb response to an empty relationship may be to terminate the relationship or to let the Resurrected Life revitalize and fill the emptiness. The empty tomb response to financial short falls may be to cut back on extras, and even if there is nothing left to cut, the After-Life response is full of hope and Abundant Life: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1 NIV2011), and “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25 NIV84). The empty tomb response says, “He will provide; You will make it!”

As we celebrate the Resurrection this year, let us proclaim the emptiness of the tomb and the Fullness of the Resurrection. Let us rest in the confident Hope that the Resurrected One has secured for us Fullness in our emptiness. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!!!

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Confessing Christ in the Hard Times”

 

Perhaps you will be encouraged as I was after reading the following from Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:

Again today I have tried to witness a good confession to the work the Lord hath wrought in my soul. But it is hard to testify where there is so little feeling, and Satan tries to hinder me by every possible suggestion he can bring forward. He tells me it is all a lie, and that I had better have had my tongue cut out before I ever presumed to say such a thing of myself, and tries to induce me to stay away from the meetings and from every place where confession could be made. But my indwelling Saviour keeps me from yielding to these suggestions or from entertaining them for a moment, and enables me to set my face like a flint that I will hold fast the confession of my faith without wavering, because faithful is He that hath promised.

Yes, I will believe, I will trust; even though the Lord should never again show me the light of His countenance, nor manifest Himself to my soul! My Jesus is dwelling in me, and has established His Kingdom there, and I am altogether and only His! Oh praise His holy Name!

One blessed result I do find, and that is that I love His will now with a genuine love that makes a cross borne for His dear sake filled with an untold sweetness.—Journal, June 15, 1869 ( from Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print.)

Main Text— 2 Timothy 1:8–9 (NIV84) 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,  I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NIV84)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.—Romans 5:3–5 (NIV84)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my strength as I endure hardships and insults. Let my weakness manifest Your strength. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

“Humble is Too Nice a Word”

It seems that “humble” is just too nice a word for what happened to Jesus. As I read the Gospels and review His passion—the whipping, beatings, and crucifixion, this was not “humbling,” but it is “humiliation.” Yes, the better word seems, at least to me, to be: “humiliation.”

This word keeps coming up in my life, especially in the last year and a half or so. Be it public or private, the “humbling” is often beyond unpleasant and nearly unbearable. I’m becoming more confident that the Lord is giving me a glimpse of what He went through in His coming down from heaven to earth: It is indeed a most profound humiliation. As our main text notes below, He was equal with Deity—He is God! And yet He didn’t grasp or cling to this privilege. Rather He chose to make Himself nothing. (One translation says, “made Himself of no reputation.” He did  not brag about His being God; didn’t flaunt it in our faces.)

Continuing in this humiliation from heaven to earth, He took on the form of servant in human form. He did not come to be served, but to serve…. And the humiliation continued: He allowed Himself to be humiliated in death, and not just any death but the humiliating, shameful death of a crucifixion…. (In the Jewish mind, “Cursed is he who hangs on a tree” Dt. 21:22-23 & Gal. 3:13).

This is humiliation and not a mere humbling; publicly shamed and scorned; naked and beaten. The great God of the universe nailed to a tree by puny humans…. True humiliation, wouldn’t you agree?

And, oh, have I failed to note that He also carried the sins of all the world for all time? He—the Holy, sinless One—was so humiliated to carry our disgusting garbage of evil?

What ever small humiliations I have been going through these last 20 years or so cannot compare to His humiliation, for sure. But it does give me a taste of what He went through for me. A taste, mind you….

Do you, too, feel your humiliations are but a taste of what Jesus went through for you? Do they give you a greater appreciation for His coming down from heaven to earth? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV84)— 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.   Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NIV84)

    I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.—Romans 12:3-4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I accept this grace of humiliation. I accept it knowing that You are conforming me to be more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What Good Can Come from Her”

 

What good can come from her? She was a prostitute; a lady of the night. She is still remembered as a prostitute…. So what can her life possibly teach me?

As I have ponder the life of Rahab, I have marveled at her tenacity and courage to choose right even in the midst of a cruel, corrupt culture. She grew up in a very evil culture in which good was evil and evil was good; where kings ruled with autocratic control, and true wickedness abounded. (To see how wicked check out Leviticus 18:2-30 and Deuteronomy 12:29-31.)

Rahab still chose right. (Now when I say, “right,” I am not referring to anything political, but rather of principle. You know right, wrong,… To me, these still objectively exist.)

We would suppose that the “right” Rahab chose was to hide the spies, and, to some extent this is so, but notice the first phrase in the main verse: “By faith.” Her right choice came before she hid the spies. She chose the Holy One (YHWH, bless the Name) first, and out of this right choice she hid the spies….

I am very encouraged by my sister, Rahab: Though still “labeled” as a prostitute in the New Covenant, she chose to change her way of life by placing her faith in the only One who could truly change her way of Life. Brothers and Sisters, let us be infused with the courage of hope that our sister, a true woman of character, demonstrated even while living in the midst of a dark, cruel culture. While there is still breath, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Are you encouraged? Care to share your thoughts?

Main Text— Hebrews 11:31 (NIV84) 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.—Psalm 25:12 (NIV)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,  who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.—Isaiah 5:20 (NIV)

 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.Psalm 34:14 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, Empower me to be like You—choosing what is right no matter what the consequences may be. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even When I’m Wrong”

Lord, You have been deeply impressing me on one of my deepest fears: Being wrong. Being a recovering perfectionist, this should not surprise me, but it did what You reveal how deep in my soul this is. Though You have transformed me significantly, I still am hesitant to step too far out of my comfort zone for fear of being wrong….

Then, this week You showed me You can resurrect and transform even when I am wrong. As the Resurrection and the Life, You cannot only take the big things—the evil things—and transform them into something beautiful and good, You can take my little, insignificant wrong decisions, wrong choices, wrong whatever, and transform them into something beautiful. Yes, I understand that sometimes the path to this good and beautiful may be hard and difficult, even leaving a scar or two; You will still make the scars look beautiful. (And You should know, right?)

So I am learning to rest in this truth: Because Your resurrection power can transform any “wrong” decision, etc., I can trust You even if these have led me into the valley of the shadow of death. Your rod and staff will comfort me and I will walk in Your presence—forever!

I do believe this!

Main Text— John 11:25–26 (NIV84) 25 Jesus said to her,I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.—Philippians 3:20–21 (NIV84)

  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 1:18–20 (NIV84)

I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.Revelation 1:18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You that You are the Resurrection and the Life in my life. I yield to Your transforming power as You overcome this fear in my life of being wrong. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Dealing with Issues of the Heart”

How do you deal with issues of the heart? What issues? Oh, the ones Our Lord mentions in the Sermon on the Mount: Anger, lust, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, retaliation, and a closed heart. I don’t think He would have mentioned them if they weren’t common to the human condition. We all engage such issues, true. But do we entertain them?

I have found the best way to deal with these issues is to first confess my yearning to sin. “Yes, Lord Jesus Christ, You know I enjoy this _____. But I know it displeases You. Through Your Power I confess I want nothing more to do with _______.” (The blanks are filled with the specific sin.)

Now the next step is crucial. It times past I used to resolve never to do this sin again. I determined in my soul not to entertain the anger, lust, unfaithfulness, etc. And guess what? Oh, you know, too, don’t you? I would fail again. So I soon (like almost 15 years) realized that this simply just doesn’t work. But what does “work” is yielding to the Lord Jesus Christ—something like this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands.” 

This is no magic formula or some easy peasy 1-2-3, A-B-C, for this prayer is also a matter of the heart. Once the heart (and the will) is (are) yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ, during the temptation a pause presents itself offering us a  moment to choose: Yield to the sin; or yield the Lord Jesus as my Righteousness. 

 For example, when it comes to lust, if my glance turns into a gaze, then I have yielded to sin.  But if my glance turns my eyes away (and my mind), then I have yielded to Righteousness—and all this by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit.

So in dealing with the issues of the heart, I must allow the Heart-Transformer to do His work. I am, indeed, a co-laborer, but my part is much like the farmer’s: I merely prepare the soil; the Lord Jesus produces the increase. Have you found this to be so, too?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22, 27–28 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.Luke 8:15 (NIV84)

  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.—Romans 6:12–14 (ESV)

  You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.— Galatians 5:13 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Please Your Father in me that I may be a pleasing child of His. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“I Think I Can”

Many of us grew up with the “Little Engine that Could” story, and then we’ve passed it on to our children and to their children. It is a great moral: Don’t give up; Give it your all and you can do it. And for much of life I would agree with this….

…but when it comes to living the Moral Kingdom Code presented by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount, I have a different feeling RE the “little engine that could.”

Perhaps you are morally stronger than I, but I have not been able to keep my heart from burping out, “You fool”—either to the one who just cut me off or to my self for doing something utterly stupid…. Oops, I’m in “liable to the hell of fire” (v. 22 below).

Or how about the rest of the “You have heard that it was said to those of old…, But I say to you’s? I know our Master is giving us the ideal Kingdom Living Code, but I also think He is noting something far more profound right along with it: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20 ESV). I think He is telling us that we cannot achieve this Code on our own, by our own efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?

 Wouldn’t you agree that St. Paul echoes this very sentiment in his letter to the Galatians, “I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 ISV)?

I know I need Jesus in the beginning of my salvation and at the end, but I also know I need Him in the middle as well. With each step I take in His steps, I need His strength, His Power, to “perform” His Kingdom Code. How else would I make it? I know of no other way. Do you?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”Jn 14:6–7 (NIV84 emphasis added)

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.—James 2:10–11 (NIV84)

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:8–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, when it comes to Your Kingdom Code, I am shaking like a leaf. I pray You are my Prince of Peace. Fulfill Your Holy Kingdom Code in my Life that I might be a pleasing child of Yours. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“A Desire for Righteousness”

The statement made by Jesus captured in our main text this morning is indeed a shock and awe moment for us. If we are honest with ourselves, the first shock and awe is even if we have a desire to be righteousness. You know, do we desire to live the Life that is pleasing to our Master? Well, we may desire to want to get into heaven, but our culture has been the proverbial frog in the boiling pot to us, and we have dumbed down our passions and desires. We don’t want to stick out too much. Just be medium. Mediocre.

Is this so of you? I can feel the warmth of the water as the other frog legs entangle mine….

But what if I were to tell you “righteousness” is not a thing but a person? The Lord Jesus Himself. He is our Righteousness. Does this change anything? Do passions rise in you to please Him? Love Him more and more each day?

This is my prayer and desire for all of us: that we continue to press hard with a profound passion after our Lord Jesus. Let us spur one another on this Journey. It is only when the Lord Jesus is our Righteousness that indeed we have a superior Righteousness.

Main Text— Matthew 5:20 (NIV84) 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,  “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,  a King who will reign wisely  and do what is just and right in the land.   In his days Judah will be saved  and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord Our Righteousness.”Jeremiah 23:5–6 (NIV84)

 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.—Roman 3:22–24 (NIV84)

  It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”— 1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, swell in me a passion and desire to follow you with a heart that is true. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Greater Things; Quiet Things”

Is bigger always better? Or is greater always louder? Even noticed? Would you agree, if I were to suggest, that greater may be quiet, even subtle? The great oak starts out as a small sapling. It quietly grows in the forest. Yet it becomes a “mighty oak tree.” So, too, is it with the greater things of Jesus.

In our main text below, we see Nathanael amazed at Jesus’ simple ability to know Him from a distance, and our Master responds with a hint of playfulness—paraphrasing, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” …

… Then follows our Lord’s first miracle. It came in the normal flow of life. It came in respectful response to a concerned mother’s wishes. And it came quietly. Oh, the servants knew of the miracle. The disciples knew of the miracle. And, yes, His mother knew, but He did not flash an LED sign nor did He trumpet what He just did. He merely and quietly moved on to another city (see John 2:12).

Our Master did this a lot. The “greater things” He promised Nathanael often came quietly and unheralded. Or at least He tried to. But why?

May I offer one explanation? The “greater things” were never intended to draw attention to themselves, and definitely not intended to draw attention to our Master as a “Miracle Worker.” Yes, He did miracles, healing all sorts of maladies, and though those He raised to life died—again, and those who were sick got some other illness, the “greater thing” He did was in the most unassuming and quiet way: To quote from “El Shaddai” by Michael Card, “Your most awesome work was done by the frailty of Your Son.” And this “greater thing” lasts. Those who are raised from the death of sin and darkness, never die again. Those whose souls are healed from the sickness of sin’s cancer never get sick again.

And this quiet work often goes unnoticed like a quiet gentle breeze….

What do you think about the quietness of the “greater things” Jesus does? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 1:48–51 (NIV84) 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.John 3:8 (NIV84)

Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man [with leprosy], “I am willing,” He said. Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”—Matthew 8:3–4 (NIV84)

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.— John 6:14–15 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as You continue to reveal Your glory to me, may I cherish the quiet miracles of the soul. 

Pastor Mike